Friday’s Feature with Katie Clark

The Rejected Princess

When Princess Roanna Hamilton’s parents arrange a marriage with a prince of Dawson’s Edge—the mysterious and backwards kingdom to the south—Roanna reluctantly agrees, accepting that peace must be put ahead of her lifelong relationship with Prince Benjamin of Lox.

But when Roanna is introduced to Dawson’s royal family, strange mind-bending anomalies are awakened within her, and she discovers the Dawsonian royal family holds secrets of their own.

Roanna becomes locked in a battle between kingdoms. Rebels wish to eliminate people who possess powerful anomalies. With threats growing daily, Roanna comes to realize the danger she is in—not to mention how her own family, and Benjamin’s, would react if her anomaly was revealed.

Tensions rise when Lox is attacked. If Roanna is to save herself and her future, she must stall her marriage and squelch the growing rebellion—all while discovering how deeply her power runs. But will Prince Benjamin and her family accept her when the truth of her heritage is finally revealed?

Like the blurb? Read this free excerpt!

Princess Roanna of Chester’s Wake had only been to the dungeon once in her life, but that one trip had scared her enough that she never wanted to return. Now, ten years later, Roanna worked in the palace libraries side by side with Prince Benjamin of Lox, her lifelong friend and cohort in crime all those years ago, as they sorted socks, coats, and blankets to take to the Rejected in the orphanages.

“I just want to look around the dungeon for a little while.” Ben’s voice pulled her gaze toward him.

Roanna hated the dark and dank dungeon, which reeked of bodily fluids. The place gave her chills.

Thunder boomed overhead, and Roanna gasped. Pressing her eyes closed, she took a deep breath to calm herself. Perhaps she was being silly.

Ben quirked an eyebrow at her and grinned. He leaned against the library wall and turned to the windows as rain dumped loads of water into the western gardens of her family’s palace at Chester’s Wake. Ben was taller than her, and his dusty-blond hair was parted messily to the right side. He was handsome, as so many hopeful girls had told him before. Not that he seemed to care about that.

Roanna finished tying a ribbon on the package she’d put together. She set it to the side and grabbed more supplies. Ben had been with her that fateful day in the dungeon ten years ago—the new cook’s assistant had dragged them there after catching them stealing cookies from her platter. She’d said it was to teach them a lesson they’d not soon forget. The assistant was fired that very day, and Roanna swore off even the thought of a life of crime.

Now, the idea of returning to the scene of their punishment all those years ago did not appeal. Why would he want to explore the dungeons, anyway?

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More about the author

KATIE CLARK started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died. Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes inspirational romance for adults as well as young adult speculative fiction, including her YA supernatural novel, Shadowed Eden, and The Enslaved Series. You can connect with her at her website, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Friday’s Feature with Emily Conrad


Jake thought he was meant to marry Brooklyn, but now she’s pregnant, and he had nothing to do with it. Brooklyn can’t bring herself to name the father as she wrestles with questions about what her pregnancy means and how it will affect her relationship with Jake. If Harold Keen, the man who owns the bookstore across from Jake’s coffee shop, has anything to do with it, the baby will ruin them both.








The door opened, and Brooklyn ducked through. The only mascara left on her face was a faint smudge below one of her eyes. That could only mean one thing: she was pregnant.

She took an uncertain step toward him. He wrapped her in his arms, but even so, she’d never been further out of his reach.

“I can’t do this,” she said against his shoulder.

“You can.” He leaned his head to look at her face. Her closed eyes seeped tears. “We’ll do it together.”

Liar. He couldn’t help her with a baby. That job belonged to Caleb. Yet, he had the sense that the promise answered his prayer. It was God’s direction for

how he should proceed. How do You figure I can help her?

She scrunched her eyes tighter, and he placed a hand on the back of her head as she collected herself. When she stepped away, her gaze focused behind him, and her face reddened. “Can we go?”

Robyn stared at them, forehead furrowed.

Jake lifted a hand in a wave and turned toward the door.

Brooklyn followed him out to the car and buckled herself in. “I don’t want people talking.”

At this point, gossip was unavoidable. The time to worry about appearances was already weeks behind them. He started the engine and navigated to the road.

She gasped like they’d had a close call with another car, but the road was clear of everything but cottony snow. “I can’t do this, Jake. I never planned to get married, let alone have kids all by myself.”

“You’re not alone.” She had God if she wanted him. Or Caleb. He wouldn’t turn his back on his own kid. Then again, Jake hadn’t expected him to make a move on Brooklyn either. He and Caleb had been friends since high school football. That should’ve counted for something.

She remained silent.

Despite everything, he couldn’t stand to see her cry, so he kept his eyes on the road.

She dug through the glove compartment for a napkin, which she pressed to her face. “The doctor said the baby is the size of a BB pellet. A bullet. Who compares a baby to a bullet?”

News that the baby already took up space was at the edge of his ability to grasp, but a bullet comparison was the most sense she had made all day.

“You’re angry,” she said.

A black SUV pulled out of a parking lot, and he slammed the brakes to avoid it. The car slid a couple of inches before the tires gripped. He ground his teeth. Anything he said would betray just how right she was, and she hurt enough without him piling on more wounds. As he parked in his spot behind Hillside, his phone went off. He took it from his pocket and answered.

“I think I messed up.” Devin, one of the youth group boys Jake mentored, rarely bothered to introduce himself.

Join the club. Jake rubbed his hand over his eyes. “Why’s that?”

“Do you have time? We could meet up?”

This had to be about Lauren, Devin’s girlfriend. Or something could’ve happened with the kid’s alcoholic parents. Or school. Jake took his keys from the ignition but didn’t open his door.

Brooklyn sat still and quiet, probably waiting to say good-bye.

“Sure. Let me wrap up what I’m working on. We can grab lunch in about an hour.”

“Who’s buying?”

“Who always buys? I’ll text you when I’m headed over.” Jake pocketed the phone before turning his attention back to Brooklyn.

She collected her purse and tugged her coat zipper up to her throat. “I should get to work. I’ll need the time off later in the year.” The door clunked open.

“Let me know if you need anything.”

She must’ve picked up on his hesitance because she nodded once and got out without another word.

You’re a terrible friend, Jake.

He couldn’t imagine doing better. Not when the woman he’d hoped to someday marry was carrying someone else’s child. God, what do I do now?

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About the author

Emily Conrad lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys road trips to the mountains, crafting stories, and drinking coffee. (It’s no coincidence her debut novel is set mostly in a coffee shop!) She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect with readers on social media.

Thursday’s Throwback with Marilyn Leach

Up From the Grave

A Lenten sod turning ceremony for a new water feature in the back garden of St. Aidan of the Wood Parish Church goes utterly pear-shaped when the upturned soil reveals a human skeleton. With Berdie Elliott at the helm, the whole of Aidan Kirkwood digs into the mystery. When the bones held life, just who was this person? Who is the mysterious contessa that arrives on the garden scene? And what does the young and beautiful Robin Derbyshire’s wedding have to do with the grave? Unearth the answers in this fun spring romp.

Get your copy here:

Read an excerpt:

Excerpt from Chapter Two of Up From the Grave: A Lenten Mystery by Marilyn Leach Published by Pelican Book Group, Nicola Martinez Editor


“And furthermore,” was all Wilkie managed to get out when another booming voice interrupted.

“Wilkie Gordon, do sit down.” The tall and commanding Colonel Preswood was on his feet; shoulders squared and jaw tight, spitting the words in the old dissenter’s direction. “For heaven’s sake man, get a grip.” Though his suit was nicely tailored and pressed, his broad features were sour as he addressed the crowd. “Our guest can do whatever she chooses with her money. Now let’s get on with what we’re here for.”

In haste Mr. Webb half whispered words of reassurance to the Countessa, “Don’t pay any mind to them,” and he pushed the shovel handle into her palm, pointing to the ground. “Now!” commanded the harassed council president.

Berdie watched Hugh who had now also risen to his feet. She knew he’d put things in place and restore the calm. But before he could speak, the countessa pushed the polished tool up to the hilt into the soil. Despite her spike heeled shoes, and with some labor, she turned its contents over. The woman’s face went pale. A voluble shriek escaped from the pink shimmering lips of Countessa Santolio.

All heads, as if observing a tennis match, moved from the Wilkie Gordon-Colonel Preswood drama to the elegant woman who threw the shovel down with such force it almost made a direct plant on Mr. Webb’s Italian leather shoe.

The head of council peered into the newly made hole. His face became morose.

Berdie watched Hugh place himself delicately to take a peek at what was causing such a reaction. Indeed, half the audience was now straining forward as if to catch a glimpse. The very proper Mrs. Plinkerton, a respected member of the parish council, was seated closest to the cavity and peered into the soil.

“Bones,” she screeched. Her aging face whitened and she fell back against her chair, as if to faint, sending her large pink hat on a tumble.

“Bones?” Berdie said aloud.

The council members next to Mrs. Plinkerton grabbed the hat and worked furiously to fan her.

Hugh raised his hands calmly. “Let’s keep our sensibilities. First, Edsel, would you please get Mrs. Plinkerton a glass of water?”

Edsel Butz made way to the church.

Hugh’s’ voice was clear and strong. “All our lands are open grazing. It’s very likely nothing more than the remains of a sheep.”

“You’ve desecrated a grave,” someone yelled in the crowd.

“Let’s not rush to judgment,” Hugh urged.

Berdie sensed someone bending towards her.

“What’s going on?” Dr. Loren Meredith’s voice could melt butter. “I just arrived. Looks a bit of a mad house.”

With Lillie’s love interest, the pathologist Dr. Loren Meredith, being so near, Berdie became aware of his unique scent. It was a combination of fresh scrubbed soap and a touch of mountain air. What a shame, she thought, that the rest of the afternoon wasn’t as pleasant as Dr. Meredith’s presence.

“I’m afraid the whole affair has gone a bit pear shaped,” Berdie responded. And not just before Constable Goodnight poked his considerable finger into the doctor’s shoulder.

“Need your services if you please,” the large law enforcement officer grumbled. “Come along.”

The handsome physician, shoulder length black hair pulled back from his slightly graying temples and fastened at the nape of his neck, followed Goodnight to the gauged earth.

The constable bellowed forth making his rotund shape heave. “Everyone sit down or I’ll arrest the lot of ‘ya.”

The constable’s boom sent baby Katy Donovan into a great crying frenzy which soon became a chorus when Dotty Butz and several other infants joined in. Few paid attention to Goodnight’s command.

Dr. Meredith bent close to the earth and pushed aside additional dirt revealing more remains.

Berdie’s curiosity got the better of her and deftly she stepped to the sight the doctor examined.

“Human, a little one,” the pathologist said discreetly and stood.

“Well, I never,” Berdie exhaled, “of all times and places.”

“Quite,” the doctor agreed.

The animated voice of Mr. Webb sounded. “Surely there’s been some mistake.”

Goodnight, standing next to Berdie, grunted, took a deep breath, and trumpeted across the crowd, “I’m declaring this a crime scene. You lot go home now.”

“Albert,” Mr. Webb challenged, “is this really necessary?”

“Do pigs grout?” Goodnight spurted.

There was the sound of a toppled chair and a voice cried out, “Reverend Elliott, Wilkie Gordon’s collapsed.”

Berdie caught her breath as Hugh, quite fit for a man his age, nearly hurdled the chairs to get to Mr. Gordon. A small group had gathered round.

“I appreciate your concern, but please stand back, give him room to breathe,” Hugh ordered.

Edsel, who had just given the glass of water to Mrs. Plinkerton, was next to Hugh moving people along as the vicar attended to the old gentleman.

“I said go home!” Goodnight bellowed like an evening fog horn.

Whipped by the swirl of events and Goodnights’ volume, a mad migration of people took flight for the front road. Chairs tipped and children were swept up. Mr. Webb hurriedly escorted the countessa and her aide back to her limousine and Dave Exton, who seemed to relish the action, went snap happy with his camera.

Dr. Meredith turned his attention to Hugh and Mr. Gordon. He took a step.

“Stay right here Doctor,” Goodnight barked, “Vicar’s doin’ a fine job.”

“Are you mad, Goodnight?” Dr. Meredith frowned, and moved quickly to Wilkie’s side.

Berdie took in the policeman. “Shouldn’t you be doing something to help Mr. Gordon, Constable Goodnight?”

“More important I keep an eye on this.” The law officer stabbed his thumb in the direction of the skeleton. “I shall be calling the Yard in on this,” he rumbled.

About the author

At the age of nine, Marilyn wrote her first play with a childhood neighbor, “The Ghost and Mr. Giltwallet”. It was a mystery. And she’s been writing in one form or another, hobby or livelihood, since. As well as teaching art, she’s had the opportunity to co-author several plays that have been performed on both church and secular stages, as well as two screenplays. Marilyn has had the good fortune of “discovering her roots” while visiting England where she developed lasting relationships with wonderful people there. It has greatly impacted her writing. A keen fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and David Cook’s Hetty Wainthropp series, Marilyn was inspired to write her Berdie Elliott Mystery series. It takes place in a small English village where the vicar’s wife, Berdie Elliott, is the divine sleuth. Marilyn lives lakeside in a cottage on the outskirts of Denver near the foothills.


Inspiration for Up from the Grave









These photos are of the local churchyard in the small village of Lastingham, Yorkshire, England. (Photos courtesy of Lillie Harris.) When we visited the church there, I was taken with how well groomed the churchyard was. And I’m sure there were no shallow graves with un-entombed bodies like there is in my story Up from the Grave. Still, it was a pleasure to view. Adding a water feature to a church garden isn’t especially common, but there are some English church gardens that have them, especially at historic abbeys. The English have long practiced burial of church members in the church garden, though it’s not as common today. It’s fascinating to see and read these ancient monuments that honor people from the past. It helped inspire my mystery. Cheers.